NBA players are known for their insane fitness levels. The way the NBA game is played means there is constant movement on both ends of the floor and stamina is a big part of every player’s game. Other than stamina, players need to be at the best possible weight to go up and down the floor while also being able to absorb the contact and physicality of the league. That is why great players such as Michael Jordan and LeBron James trained their bodies for perfection every time they appeared on the court.
But unfortunately, there have been many players who were unable to control their weight and that led to massive disappointment throughout their careers. There are also a select few players who, despite weight problems, were able to dominate thanks to their physicality or talent as big men. It is time to rank the 10 players who suffered the most weight problems in NBA history, whether it hindered their play or looked plain ridiculous when they appeared on television. Quite surprisingly, a lot of these players ended up having very strong careers but it does lead one to wonder how great they would have been with better fitness levels.
10. Nikola Jokic - 6’11”, 284 lbs
It is amazing how the current MVP of the league can be so dominant and yet remain out of shape. At first glance, the Serbian looks very unintimidating with his rather relaxed demeanor and soft-looking physique. But as soon as he touches the ball, his raw talent is clear to see. Jokic might be the best passing center of all time and he does things on a nightly basis that we have never seen from such a large man.
Thanks to Jokic, the Denver Nuggets are on the map as title contenders. His size and understanding of the game cannot be taught, and he uses his skill to take advantage of opposing centers that lack his basketball IQ. But Jokic, especially earlier on in his career, was somewhat of a funny-looking character with his height and lack of muscular definition. But he has played his way into MVP shape and in due time, he will be completely off this list for good.
9. Zach Randolph - 6’9”, 250 lbs
Zach Randolph overcame a ton of obstacles in his career, pertaining to his physique and athleticism, to have a very successful NBA career. Like other players on this list, Randolph was not going to win any bodybuilding competitions and used his girth to post up down low and get good looks whenever he wanted. Randolph was a fringe All-Star early on in his career with the Trail Blazers, despite playing under the rim.
The big man later made 2 All-Star Teams as a member of the Grit ‘n Grind Memphis Grizzlies squad that also featured Marc Gasol. Despite having almost no lift on his jumpers and without mich vertical, Randolph knew he was stronger than most players at his height and used it to his advantage. A solid scorer, Randolph could have possibly had a better career had he slimmed down a little bit more and used his basketball IQ to form a better all-around game.
8. Zion Williamson - 6’7”, 300 lbs
Zion Williamson is listed at 284 lbs but based on how he looks right now, it is obvious he is clear of 300 lbs. Zion is supposed to be the next face of the NBA, and in terms of talent and impact alone, he has the best chance of succeeding with that pressure. But Williamson has had problems controlling his weight, suffering multiple injuries to start his career, and looking like he was birthed by Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley themselves. All jokes aside, Zion has immense talent and must be in better shape to reach his almost never-ending ceiling.
The New Orleans Pelicans sorely need Williamson on the court because they are struggling to win games and remain competitive in the Western Conference. More specifically, the Pelicans need to be comforted in knowing that their biggest star is motivated to play into superstar shape. If Williamson cannot get to under 280 lbs and remain healthy, he is at risk of being one of the biggest “what-ifs” in American sports history.
7. Antoine Walker - 6’8”, 224 lbs
Antoine Walker looked very sloppy at times over his career but was still a very good scorer. Walker made 3 All-Star Teams with the Boston Celtics and was a great versatile power forward that could score inside and outside. In many ways, Antoine was one of the first stretch forwards who could create his own shot as well. By pairing Walker with Paul Pierce, the Celtics were able to score with the best of them back in the day.
But Walker could not remain in the appropriate shape, especially for an All-Star talent. That is why he suffered multiple injuries and could not shake them off as easily as other players could. Walker’s greatest success came when he played with the Miami Heat, but his impact was slightly under his level due to lacking game shape and keeping healthy. Walker could have had a greater career, even if he won the 2006 title as a role player, and his weight has something to do with it.
6. Charles Barkley - 6’6”, 252 lbs
One of the top-two greatest out-of-shape players, Charles Barkley was undeterred by his clear overweight physique. Charles was (and is) often ridiculed for his physique, but he did not let it affect his game in any negative way. Rather, he used his size to his advantage. As a 6’6” power forward playing in a big man’s era, Barkley was undersized and needed some extra pounds to take the beatings he took every night.
In many ways, it worked, because Barkley won an MVP Award and carried a Phoenix Suns team to the NBA Finals. Averaging 22.1 PPG and 11.7 RPG, Charles is one of the 30 greatest players of all-time His ability to snatch rebounds off the rim and use his powerful lower body was crucial in helping him achieve greatness. It is hard to argue that Barkley should have lost weight to have a greater career although it could have helped him play a little longer.
5. Shaquille O’Neal - 7’1”, 325 lbs
The beef between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant was well-documented, especially because the big man was consistently out of shape during the latter stages of his Lakers career. O’Neal ballooned to over 330 lbs at one point and was clearly not in the best shape of his life when the Lakers lost the 2004 NBA Finals. While Kobe took the majority of the blame for being a tad selfish with the ball, and rightly so, O’Neal’s weight did not help the team either.
Many former athletes raved about O’Neal’s impact and had he certainly changed the game with his physical dominance, but his career could have been even greater. Shaq did not work on his body like other all-time greats, and that meant he retired with 4 rings instead of many more. There was no answer for a prime Shaq, and imagine if he could extend his career longer by staying healthy and motivated. O’Neal had a late revival during his time with the Phoenix Suns, but he should have been in top shape to become, quite possibly, the greatest player ever.
4. Glen Davis - 6’9”, 289 lbs
Glen “Big Baby” Davis was quite a character because he never held back any emotions that he felt at any given time. Davis wore his heart on his sleeve, and that is why he is one of the most likable players of his generation. As an NBA player who built his career off hustle and energy, Davis was never in the best shape. In actuality, he was always overweight. At 6’9”, Davis must have cleared 290 lbs when he played because he was stocky and thick. Even when undersized, Davis never looked like he was playing to his best ability.
Glen was still a productive player for the Boston Celtics championship team in 2008, coming off the bench and having some productive moments in the playoffs. Glen Davis was never really a starting-caliber player in the NBA, and his weight might have had something to do with it. Davis was surprisingly effective as a scorer and his energy made him a fan-favorite wherever he played.
3. Dexter Pittman - 6’11”, 308 lbs
A shockingly large rookie, Dexter Pittman had weight issues from the start of his career. It was reported that Pittman lost as much as 100 lbs to prepare for the NBA Draft, but was still listed at 308 lbs during his playing career. Surprisingly, the Maimi Heat chose him with the No. 32 overall pick with hopes that the big man sheds weight and develops his all-around game. If a rookie is overweight, there will be very little to motivate him after he gets his first paycheck as a professional.
That ended up being the case, as Pittman hardly appeared for the Heat and never truly adjusted to the modern NBA game requiring pace and spacing. The center was still a part of the 2012 championship team led by LeBron James, so he had a lot of good things coming his way at an early age. But 50 appearances in his NBA career, including 6 starts, is not a spectacular amount of time for a professional with hopes of producing more.
2. Sean May - 6’9”, 266 lbs
Sean May was a disappointment as a professional NBA player, and there is no way around it. May was a superstar in college, using his size and talent to dominate both ends of the floor. There were slight concerns over his weight and fitness when coming into the league, and those concerns were very accurate. May might have ballooned up to 300 lbs, an incredible amount of weight for someone who is 6’9”. As expected, Sean May received his fair share of criticism.
After getting drafted No. 13 overall, May only appeared in 58 games through 2 seasons before knee surgery kept him out of the entire season in his third year. Once he came back, he looked overweight as ever and became the subject of never-ending fat jokes. For a player who looked like a superstar, May would go on to complete 61 games over 2 more seasons before getting waived by the Kings. For a player with star impact in college, this was very disappointing.
1. Eddy Curry - 7’0”, 295 lbs
No player in NBA history had more weight issues than Eddy Curry. It was well-documented how Curry put little to no effort in his fitness levels, even failing to appear in training camp with the Knicks, and looked at least 25 lbs overweight when he did show up. Curry was listed at near 300 lbs, but he might have been pushing 350 at his worst. It was also documented that Curry failed to appear in training camp 3 seasons in a row due to injuries, which were directly linked to him being overweight.
Curry would have an unspectacular start to his career before putting 19.5 PPG and 7.0 RPG in 2007 with the Knicks. When Curry looked like he could start being an impactful post player, weight issues once again came in the way of any improvement. Whether Curry was hurt or not in-game shape, the issues followed the former No. 4 pick everywhere. The 7’0” behemoth could have been a really good player, but he will go down in history as the player with the most weight struggles in NBA history.